Bali Portman is the founder and spokesperson for Yarn Corner, a group of highly visible and productive Yarn Bombers.
A lot of people are dismissive of the activity as being too crafty and possibly “women’s business”, but I see it as a means of expression for those who don’t draw or paint and therefore wouldn’t be involved in any other form of street art.
Bali can’t remember how, when or why she started to crochet but she just fell in love with the process. She had tried knitting as a kid but was just not interested in it as a means of expression.
About four and a half years ago, two things happened: Bali saw some overseas Yarn Bombing online and a book on the subject was published! This book was to become her “bible”.
“Oh yeah, I thought, this looks really interesting! I was already doing a bit of it and had set up a crocheted installation in Federation Square for The Light in Winter Festival,” she said.
“My piece took the form of a massive lantern that people could sit under and be part of a ‘knit-in’.”
The enthusiastic response to the yarn bombed lantern inspired Bali to set up fortnightly meetings. It was a humble beginning with only three in attendance at the inaugural meeting.
However, after sharing on Facebook, within two months, there were 200 people in the group. The establishment of a Facebook page saw the membership grow to 500 within six months, including many from overseas.
Businesses started to contact them and Yarn Corner’s first commissioned installation was to cover poles for Go-Get cars.
Pricing and estimating measurements were a sharp learning curve for Bali. One of the most adventurous efforts for the group, was to cover a caravan for the 2013 Royal Melbourne Show. It was over a year’s work but due to lack of experience, the estimated number of squares required was out by 2000!
Yarn Corner has gone from strength to strength, numbering 1140 members, with 300-400 regular contributors. Some are up for every project, others may only be able to manage three a year.
A lot of the members who are from interstate or overseas, send their pieces to Melbourne. All members are volunteers and a good 60 of them contribute to every event. There’s also a core group who attend installs just to lend support.
“The level of interest and enthusiasm depends on the project,” Bali said.
Sometimes members sign up for a project but can’t get it done. This is where an “angel” will come in to help or take over and often the most basic piece can be really effective.
Conversely, the most time consuming can look ordinary when it goes up! Bali stresses that participation is most important and the sense of pride that comes from art.
The group is quite diverse, with time and different levels of creativity adding to the mix. The age range is 16-90ish, the majority being between 28-40. There are three male members who contribute only to conversations and of course husbands who are there to lend a hand at installs.
Bali is photographed stitching up the work of Jody, June and Renee at Yarn Corner’s annual “Yarn Corner Stitches up the City Square Yarn Bombing Installation”.
The installation is up until March 6.
Be it a paste-up, 3D spray or, as in this instance yarn, I never cease to be impressed by how generous artists are both financially and time wise in their pursuit of bringing colour to our streets!
When I asked Bali how she felt about the theft and destruction of their art, her response was: “Once it’s out there you need to let go! If it goes, it goes!”
The fifth year for this popular event was sadly marred by heavy rain thwarting attempts to complete the bombing of all 28 trees on one day. However, three weeks later and more conducive weather, saw Yarn Corner return to complete the project that
showcases the work of 37 artists.
The future of this event is uncertain as work is scheduled to commence on the underground rail tunnel.
I’m sure this will not deter the Yarn Corner bombers and there will be many more creative outlets for their work.